In response to increasing enrollment over the past five years, Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business is planning a $35 million expansion project that will unite its two buildings at the Uptown campus.

Under plans announced last week, the expansion will join Goldring/Woldenberg Hall I and Goldring/Woldenberg Hall II into what will be known as the Goldring/Woldenberg Business Complex.

The business school, which includes undergraduate and graduate programs, has grown from 1,929 students in 2009 to more than 2,900 students this year.

“The way in which business education in leading business schools is done today is very different from how it was done when the older of our two buildings was constructed,” Freeman School Dean Ira Solomon said, referring to Goldring/Woldenberg Hall I, which opened in 1986.

While most study at that time occurred in the classroom, students now often work in teams on cases, projects and simulations outside the classroom.

The new building — designed by the Pelli Clark Pelli architectural firm headquartered in New Haven, Connecticut — will include advanced classrooms, expanded breakout rooms, a new financial analysis lab, additional faculty offices and an incubator space for student business startups.

It will have a sweeping three-story atrium and will be LEED Gold certified, meaning it meets design standards for resource efficiency, using less water and energy and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

The business school was established as a night school in 1914 so that people already working in local businesses could go to class after hours. In 1916, it was one of the founding members of the organization known today as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

In 1984, the school’s name was changed to honor New Orleans businessman Alfred B. Freeman, who started as an employee of the Louisiana Coca-Cola Bottling Co. and wound up as its majority owner.

Construction on the expansion will begin in May and is expected to be finished by January 2018. As part of the project, about 40,000 square feet of existing space will be renovated. Another 45,000 square feet of new space will be added over four floors.

Solomon noted that a business degree became the most popular degree on many college campuses in the 1980s. Growth has continued since then, and “over the last five years, the average accredited business school had about a 6 percent growth,” he said.

That number has been closer to 50 percent at Freeman during the same period, however. Solomon said Tulane’s advantage is that students are accepted into Tulane first, and from there may choose which specific school they want to be a part of.

“Once they get to Tulane they decide — in large numbers it turns out — that the business school is where they want to make their home,” he said.

Other major universities require prospective students to seek admission to specific schools on the campus from the start, and movement from one school to another at the same university is difficult, he said.

According to new Tulane President Mike Fitts, business students account for about a third of the university’s total enrollment.

New Orleans businessman William Goldring has been a benefactor to Tulane for several decades. Goldring, chairman of the Sazerac Co., a liquor producer and importer/exporter, oversees donations that honor not only his own family’s name, but also that of businessman Malcolm Woldenberg, a business partner of Goldring’s father, Stephen.

Woldenberg and the Goldrings provided the anchor funding for GW I, which was the first new building on Tulane’s campus in 20 years, and for GW II, which opened in 2003.

The families also have been major benefactors to other charities and organizations around the city, including the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the National World War II Museum and New Orleans City Park.

The families are providing the anchor gift for the expansion, and other benefactors also are contributing to the project, Solomon said.